privacy and security balance in mdm

The advent of smartphones and mobile devices has completely revolutionized the way we work. While these tools offer unprecedented convenience and flexibility, they also introduce complex challenges, especially when it comes to balancing corporate security and employee privacy. The modern workplace often features a blend of corporate-owned and employee-owned (BYOD) devices, making it crucial for administrators to understand the nuanced approaches required to maintain this precarious balance.

This article is part of our guide "Mastering Mobile Device Management Operations: A Guide for Admins".

The State of Device Management

Before we delve into the complexities of balancing privacy and security, it's important to understand the state of Mobile Device Management (MDM), Mobile Application Management (MAM), and Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM). MDM solutions enable organizations to manage devices that access corporate data, while MAM focuses specifically on managing apps. EMM is an overarching term that incorporates both MDM and MAM along with additional enterprise mobility solutions. With the proliferation of BYOD policies and Corporate-Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) devices, administrators need to choose the right combination of these solutions to achieve a harmonious balance.

The Employee Privacy Conundrum

Respecting employee privacy while ensuring organizational security isn't just an administrative challenge—it's also an ethical minefield that requires careful navigation. The stakes are high: privacy laws vary dramatically from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and failing to adhere to them can result in severe financial and legal repercussions. For instance, under the GDPR in Europe, companies can face fines up to €20 million or 4% of their annual global turnover for serious infringements, which includes violation of privacy laws (Source: European Commission).

But the implications go beyond legalities. A recent study showed that 79% of U.S. employees who are concerned about workplace privacy reported being less productive (Source: Cisco’s 2020 Consumer Privacy Survey). In the same study, 66% of concerned employees said they were less likely to recommend their company as a great place to work. This indicates that employee morale and the company's reputation can also suffer greatly when privacy is compromised.

Moreover, according to a report by PwC, 85% of consumers will not do business with a company if they have concerns about its security practices, including privacy measures (Source: PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey 2018). This underscores the ripple effect that inadequate privacy measures can have, extending to not just employees but also to potential and existing customers.

Therefore, the need to balance security requirements with employee privacy rights is not just a legal necessity but a critical factor affecting employee morale, productivity, and the company's bottom line. As a best practice, organizations should consult legal experts familiar with the jurisdictions they operate in, and conduct regular privacy training for both IT admins and employees to ensure everyone understands the gravity of the situation.

By tackling the privacy conundrum head-on and integrating ethical considerations into your MDM policies, organizations can mitigate risks and foster a culture of mutual respect and trust between employers and employees.

Balancing Act: Corporate Devices

Corporate devices, by their very nature, are controlled environments. Employees generally understand that these are for work-related activities, and there is a reduced expectation of privacy. However, transparency remains crucial. Administrators should clearly communicate what is being monitored and why. For example, tracking location might be necessary for field staff but less so for office-bound employees. MDM policies should reflect these needs while maintaining the highest level of security.

Balancing Act: BYOD Devices

BYOD introduces an entirely different set of challenges. Unlike corporate devices, employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy on their personal phones or tablets. Administrators must craft MDM policies that protect corporate data without infringing on individual privacy. For instance, remote wipe capabilities should only target corporate data and apps, leaving personal information untouched.

Technologies Bridging the Gap in BYOD Scenarios

The good news is that technological advancements have made it easier to strike a balance between corporate and personal spaces on BYOD devices.

On Android, the work profile feature enabled by Android Enterprise offers an elegant solution to segregate corporate and personal data. This feature creates a dedicated workspace on the device that isolates work apps and data from personal ones, ensuring that administrators only have control over the work profile.

Similarly, on iOS devices, the User Enrollment feature allows employees to use a corporate identity alongside their personal one. This means that MDM solutions can manage corporate data without intruding into the personal space of the user. These technologies signify a step forward in respecting individual privacy while maintaining corporate security, offering administrators better tools for crafting balanced policies.

The Differences: BYOD, COPE, and Fully Fledged MDM

The extent to which an organization can impose control varies greatly depending on whether the device is owned by the company, the employee, or falls under a COPE policy. With BYOD, imposing maximum security is not only impractical but could be considered invasive. COPE devices offer a middle ground, where the company owns the hardware but allows personal use, generally leading to a more relaxed security posture compared to fully managed corporate devices.

Employee Awareness and Consent

Consent is not just a legal requirement but a moral obligation. Employees must be fully aware of the extent of monitoring and control exerted on their devices. This could be achieved through clear and concise policy documents, regular training sessions, and one-on-one consultations. Transparency builds trust and fosters a more harmonious work environment.

Best Practices for MDM Admins

MDM administrators bear the brunt of this balancing act. Effective communication is key: Whether it's an email explaining an upcoming policy change or an in-person training session on secure data handling, being transparent and proactive can significantly mitigate risks. On the technical side, adopting containerization solutions can help segregate corporate data from personal data, offering an additional layer of security while respecting privacy, especially in BYOD-friendly environments.


Striking the right balance between corporate security and employee privacy is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Administrators need to tailor their MDM, MAM, and EMM solutions based on their specific needs, always keeping transparency and consent at the forefront. The future of work is undoubtedly mobile, and a well-balanced device management strategy is key to navigating this evolving landscape successfully.

Bonus: Sample Employee BYOD Consent Document

Employee BYOD Consent Form

Company Name: ______________________

Employee Name: ______________________

I, the undersigned, acknowledge and consent to the following BYOD policies:

  1. Scope of Access: I understand that only corporate apps and data are under the management and control of the company's MDM solution.

  2. Data Privacy: I understand that my personal data will not be accessed, stored, or shared by the company.

  3. Security Measures: I agree to comply with all company-mandated security protocols, including but not limited to, device encryption, and two-factor authentication.

  4. Remote Wipe: I understand that in the event of a security incident, the company has the right to remotely wipe only the corporate data on my device.

  5. App Management: I acknowledge that I can download a selection of corporate apps through the private app store and other apps from public app stores except for those on the company's blacklist.

By signing this document, I consent to the above terms and conditions.

Employee Signature: ______________________

Date: ______________________

Feel free to customize this consent document as per your organizational needs.

We hope you find this article and the bonus consent document helpful. If you need further in-depth consultation, reach out to Appaloosa, and let's craft your tailored device management strategy.

Julien Ott
September 12, 2023

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